Fitness ~ Setting a Really Big Goal!

As anyone who knows me will tell you, I have traveled all over the fitness map.  Sometimes there’s a plan.  Other days, not so much.  But, I have learned from experience that setting a long term goal that is a real stretch (pun intended) is often the motivation I need to keep up my exercise or walking practice.  It works for me.  Every time.

HonoluluMarathon

That’s me #12168 with the white visor coming into the finish lanes.

Way back when I was a young 49 year old mostly-couch-potato, I read an article about Team in Training and marathon walking.  Intrigued, I explored this opportunity to train with a group and walk or run in marathons all over the world while raising money for a great cause.  Sometimes I tend to jump without worrying about the details like “How far is 26.2 miles anyway”?  In I jumped!  I set a goal to walk the Honolulu Marathon for my 50th birthday.  I was committed.  I walked every day starting with two miles that first week and ending my last training walk with a 22 miler from my front door in Lake Oswego to my sister’s house in Hillsboro, Oregon.  Two weeks later, I was on a plane ready to take on the full 26.2 in Honolulu.   And I did it.  And I never walked another marathon again.

But I did keep on walking.   Usually by myself.  Until recently, this was the typical evening conversation at our house.  Me:  “Honey, want to go for a walk with me?”  Hubby:  “Umm, No thanks.”

But that all changed exactly one year ago when I began hatching my plan to do something memorable for my 65th birthday at the end of August.  I wanted to walk the last 65 miles of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela (The Way of St. James) in Spain.  I discovered a walking tour company, Marly Tours, who provide support for those of use who do not want the full Pilgrim experience (carrying everything on your back, sleeping on the ground and/or sleeping in hostels with 300 others in bunk beds).  I was so excited about this idea that my enthusiasm spilled over onto my husband.  Suddenly, he wanted to join me on walks.  Perfect!  Last Fall, we began planning our weekends around walking or hiking.  We have explored most of the City of Portland Oregon on foot and we’ve recently branched out to local hikes like the The Ten Falls Hike.   We’re up to 8 to 10 miles on Saturday and then another 6 or 8 on Sunday.  Always with a stop for lunch.  We call it jogging for doughnuts.

Not too bad for a couple of almost senior citizens.  On the Camino, we’ll be walking our 100km over 5 days.  We don’t know the terrain, but I’m told to expect everything from country lanes to farmers fields to hill climbs to city streets.   We walk 13 miles the first day!  Then we get up and do it again the next day, whether we’re ready or not.  Whether we’re tired or not.  Whether our feet hurt or not.

I can’t wait to get started!

Setting this long term and very large goal, has changed our lives.  We walk every day.  Hubs joined the gym.  We walk for entertainment.  We enjoy our time together.  We’re active people again and I don’t see that ending anytime soon.   In fact, we’re already thinking about walking through England or Italy next.

See you on the trail!

Nancy

 

Living Like a Local in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Exciting news!   65 Things To Do When You Retire: Travel just ranked #1 in the category of “Specialty Travel/Senior Travel” on Amazon!

When I wrote my essay for the book, I was asked to include a short personal travel adventure.   Our six week stay in San Miguel de Allende was our first experience in living outside the United States, so it seemed like the perfect story to share ~

Beautiful San Miguel

Beautiful San Miguel

Imagine walking down 500 year old cobblestone streets each morning, greeting every person you pass with a wave, a smile, and a “beunos días”.  Actually, I had been imagining that scene for quite some time.  Thanks to a very reasonable rental through VRBO (which stands for Vacation Rentals By Owner), my husband and I made it happen.  We broke in our new travel shoes with a six-week stay in a home in San Miguel de Allende – a beautiful colonial town in central Mexico.  San Miguel was the perfect place to “dip our toes in the water” of living like locals and we dove right in.

I’m still working, but I was able to hook up my laptop and magicJack and was quickly in business.  Each morning, hubby set off to the jardín (town square) to sip a coffee, read the newspaper, and sit on a bench with the other retired gentlemen watching the world go by.  Every afternoon, we set out together, mostly on foot, to explore our surroundings.  I practiced my Spanish on shopkeepers, bus drivers, and any friendly person who stood still long enough.  One evening we walked down to the jardín for a pastry and a coffee and found ourselves dancing through town with a group of about 50 revelers led by a brass band.  How? You ask.  Well, it looked like fun.  We joined in.  Turns out we had joined a prewedding party.  We expected a quick trip around the square.  Silly gringos!  Traffic stopped.  Not one horn blared, and on we marched.  The best part?  They handed out pottery cups and at every corner filled then up with margueritas.  Back at the square we hugged the bride-to-be, wished her and the groom well, and strolled back to our house.  We had tequila on our breath and huge grins on our faces.

Wedding March around the streets of San Miguel

Wedding March around the streets of San Miguel

If you look for adventure, you’ll find it everywhere.  I took Zumba and yoga classes – in Spanish.  We navigated the local bus system and only got lost once, agreeing to call it a sightseeing tour instead of the trip to the Mega store we had originally planned.  We shopped at the tianguis – a weekly open-air market of stalls that sell everything from whole chickens to ladies’ lingerie.  I paid cinco pesos for two squares of toilet paper so I could use the public restroom.  We walked in Christmas posadas (Advent celebrations), and every afternoon we bought tortillas – fresh, hot and by the kilo.  My personal favorite?  Our 5:00 a.m. wake-up call every morning, courtesy of the rooftop rooster next door.  I still miss that guy.  We loved every minute of this adventure and are busy planning the next, and the one after that.

Tianguis Market sets up every Tuesday.

Tianguis Market sets up every Tuesday.

Standing in line for the pollo and tortillas for dinner.

Standing in line for the pollo and tortillas for dinner.

When my husband got caught in a corporate downsizing and unexpectedly joined the ranks of the newly retired, we didn’t see it coming and, quite frankly, were not prepared.  Like so many others, we had been playing retirement catch-up and were hoping for a few more good income years.  It knocked the wind right out of my sails, but my hubby is a guy who always sees the glass as half full, and he never missed a beat.  His backpack-and-rollie idea sparked a whole new second act for us – one that’s filled with opportunities for amazing travel adventures.

Con mucho gusto~

Nancy

 

Friday’s Food For Thought – Six people I want to be like when I grow old(er) ~

My granddaughter can’t wait for her 9th birthday.  Why?  Because it’s closer to the magic age of 13. That is apparently when life gets good.  Older is better.  Or so she thinks right now.

Her comment got me thinking.  Isn’t it true that at every age we look to those ahead of us for inspiration.  Maybe like my granddaughter, we think they’re cool.  We want what they’re having.  Perhaps we just want to know their secret to success.  I’ve become obsessed with people in their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s who are still going strong, still grabbing the gusto and still sucking the joy out of every moment.  They are my inspiration and my role models for living juicy in my own golden years.  Hearing their stories makes me sit up a little straighter, eat a little better, try a little harder.   They’re everywhere, these models of aging with grace and gusto.  I’d just never noticed them until now.  Timing is everything.

Inspiration is close to home and its name is Don.  At 81, he is the human incarnation of the Energizer Bunny.  He owns a vineyard and works the land.  He’s a handsome devil, too.  Last month Don left his wife at home and flew to Africa to check one more adventure off his Bucket List.  Yes, he visited the wineries; but this trip was a three week camping photo-safari.  Sleeping in a tent.  On the ground.  In 100 degree heat.  He (mostly) loved every minute.   One of the highlights?  Bungee jumping in Zimbabwe!  Who wouldn’t get excited about jumping off a very high tower with your feet tied together?  Well…me for one.  And his wife.  But Don just stepped out into the unknown and soared!

Don flying high in Zimbabwe

Don flying high in Zimbabwe

Meet five more amazing role models ~ (click on their name to read more and see the video)

 Yoga instructor and ballroom dance champion Tao Porchon-Lynch is my hero!  She still teaches several yoga classes every week and can do poses I could never do.  This video was taken on her 92nd birthday.  She’s had a couple more since then and as far as I know, she’s still tearing up the dance floor.

Through rain and snow and sleet and hail, 91 year old  Morris Wilkinson has been delivering the mail for over 70 years.

Canadian Olga Kotelko – A 94 year old super-great grandmother and winner of 400 gold medals will step up to the plate in 2013 at the World Masters Games in Turin, Italy.

Here’s 81 year old triathlete Lew Hollander crossing the finish line at the 2012 Ironman in Kona, Hawaii.

Forrest and Rose Lunsway met at a senior dance and have been “dating” for thirty years.  They married on his 100th birthday and then danced the night away.

The only failure is to grow old and not to have tried what you really wanted to do.               ~ Beatrice Cohen

Have a fun and fabulous weekend.

Nancy

Life is Good ~

lifeisgood

I took this photo while walking to my gate at the Las Vegas airport last Sunday.

As I’m figuring out how we’re going to make our goal of a backpack and rollie life in retirement work, this just about says it all.

Thanks, Life is Good guys for the inspiration.  I loved your shop at the airport and I am very impressed by your business model.  You are a great example of doing well by doing good!

Why I love of the Internet + A Few Fun Statistics

IMG_1440 [pinterest]

I started blogging almost ten months ago.  Who knew I had so much to say?   Certainly not me.  I published my first post on March 2nd, but I didn’t share my blog with the rest of the world until a few months later.  I was afraid people would think I was more than a little crazy.  I was scared they would hate my writing or not be interested in what I had to say.   I was terrified that I would quickly run out of ideas.   So much for fear.  This time, I looked fear in the eye and I went for it anyway.  I am so glad it did!  Blogging has opened up my world and helped me set a new path for adventure in our retirement years.  And, as I’ve shared my stories, I hope I made a few folks smile or inspired you say yes to some new adventures of your own.

At the end of each year WordPress, the site where Just a Backpack is hosted, compiles all your blog stats in a nice little annual report.   I thought I’d share a few of the more interesting numbers with you.

  • Almost 7,000 people viewed Just a Backpack
  • Viewers came from 78 different countries.  Most from the US, Canada and Great Britain, but people from Kenya, Qatar, Monaco, Syrian Arab Republic, Israel, Spain and even Kazakhstan found the blog.  I think that is amazing.
  • I published 89 posts and uploaded 318 photos.  So much for having nothing to say.
  • 486 comments.  (I love comments.  Keep them coming!)
  • The most popular post was Whirled Peas on December 14.  Rounding out the top five were Jonseing for a Little Chocolate, Bicycle Built for Two, Doors of Mexico and SWOOF’n It.  (You can click on the highlighted titles and read if you missed them the first time.)
  • My personal favorite was Two For the Road.  It sums up my hubs and I perfectly.

For a little blog that started on a whim, I think it’s all pretty darned amazing.   Let me say again that I am so happy that my friend Al Gore invented the internet.  It’s changed my world.

I can’t wait to see where this road leads in 2013.  Buckle up, because it’s going to be one heck of a fun ride!

526,600 Minutes ~

It’s January and like almost everyone else, I’ve been thinking about the year ahead.   All day the song 526,600 minutes from the musical Rent has been playing in my head.  That’s a whole lot of minutes – a whole year’s worth to be exact.  What a gift.  And an awesome responsibility as well – to make the most of each and every one of those 526,600 minutes.

Every January I like to take a walk down memory lane, review the previous year (the good and bad and the I can’t believe that really happened) and then set my my intention for the year ahead.  I’ve given up making new years resolutions, but I do like to have a goal or two and a bit of a road map.   I chose  RISK as my guiding word for this year.   As hubs and I continue to move deeper into uncharted waters, my willingness to embrace risk will be key to the success of our backpack and rollie retirement adventures.  I’ve never been a big risk taker.  It’s time.  I’m going for it.

Here’s my 2013 Wordle.   I know it will be a great visual reminder of where I want to keep my focus and intention as I move through the year.
l3A1NQ

If you want to play with your own Wordle, check out their website.  it’s easy and lots of fun.

Have you seen my glasses?

Or my car keys, or my book, or, or, or…   Oh yes, we’ve entered a new era at Casa Sims.  The one where you can’t remember what you did two minutes ago.  Like where the hell did I put my car keys because they certainly are not in the special car key compartment in my purse where I always put my car keys.  Except, apparently not this time.  So, the search begins – feel around in the giant purse I use because it holds all of the important things I must carry with me at all times.  Pull out the seemingly endless stream of tiny paper receipts, semi-used but still good in an emergency napkins, glasses (several pairs), wallet, phone, camera + + +.  It’s all there, but not the keys.  Search some more.  Upstairs.  Downstairs.  All over the house…no keys.  Try the purse one more time.  Voila.  They were there all the time.  Hiding from me in the one tiny corner I missed.  Hubby gets that certain smile on his face but keeps his mouth shut.  Smart man.  He knows.  It’s the same thing with the glasses.   Keys, glasses, glasses, keys.  Lost then found.  Only to be lost again.  Repeat daily.

Then there are the new and interesting conversations.  They go something like this…
Hubs, sitting in his recliner chair watching TV:  “What’s the name of that guy I like?”
Me: “What guy?”  Hubs:  “You know, the one on that TV show”  Me:  “What TV show?”  Hubs:  “The one with the guy I like.  I don’t remember the name …”  Me:  “I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about!”  Hubs:  “Ok. Nevermind.”  Rinse and repeat.

It gets even better when we are both on the same wrong track.   Off we go to the grocery store.  Hubby and I.  Park the car.  Walk into the store having an animated conversation.  That’s when we suddenly stop, look at each other and, in unison:  “What was it we came in here for?”  I kid you not.

Is it just us or does this happen to everyone at some point?  Does grey in your hair automatically lead to mass dropping of functional brain cells?  Maybe…a little.  But I’m convinced that all this forgetfulness is Mother Nature’s not so subtle reminder to slow down.  Pay attention.  And for God’s sake, find our sense of humor.   Because it is funny.   We can’t control getting older.  Like it or not, it’s out of our hands.  But we can sit up, slow down, pay attention, live the details of every moment and savor the things we do remember.  Laugh out loud.  At ourselves.  Laughter is medicine.  And quit worrying about not finding the car keys.    The time to worry is when you can no longer find the car.

Now, where did I put my glasses?

Honey, I’m off to the gym ~

No, not me…the Old Guy, my newly retired hubby who recently turned 66…HE’s off to the gym.  Every morning, you can set your clock by him.  Out the door by 9:00 a.m. – walking up the street to join the rest of the retirees, housewives and non 9-to-5ers who are lucky enough to spend their mornings plugging in their earbuds and “pounding it on the treadmill”.   That’s what the hubs calls it.  While he’s pounding it and cranking weights, I’m at my desk solving the travel problems of one small piece of the corporate world and thinking about my next blog post.  What the heck?

Here’s why this is such an interesting phenomenon.  Until three months ago, his main source of physical exertion (besides getting out of bed in the morning) was walking up and down the stairs to his office, doing the cocktail hour arm lift and bending over to pick up the remote when it fell.  Oh, and the once a year trip with his lifelong buds (other Old Guys) when they get together to hike and play as many rounds of golf as possible in three days.  Other than that – nada.

So, what’s the deal?  Retirement.  It’s that simple.  He is a new man.  He is HAPPY and he is relaxed and he has a whole lot of time on his hands.  Hours and hours and hours.   As the Chief Entertainment Officer (CEO) in our house, I have to admit I was more than a little concerned when retirement suddenly struck.  My office is upstairs and that part of the house was immediately designated off limits from 8am-4pm.  He’s handled it surprisingly well and I am thrilled to discover this seemingly new ability to entertain himself.

Here’s to Old Guys Learning New Tricks – knowing how to let go of the past and move on to new adventures.  Here’s to the fine art of learning how to fill all of the hours that used to be your working day with activities that are healthy and entertaining and new.  Now, if only he’d take a sudden interest in running the vacuum.  He tried it once, but it takes away from his gym time.

Home Exchange ~ An intriguing offer

Don’t you love it when you go in to shut down your laptop for the night and you take one last peek at your email and there, glowing in your inbox, is a message that you just have to open – and read – and read again.  And now your mind is buzzing with possibilities and excitement and fear and what ifs?   Sleepy?  No, not now.  That was so five minutes ago.

Well, here’s the short story on my enticing email from Heidi.  When I signed up for Home Exchange three weeks ago, I had no specific goals other than to test the waters on some short stays closer to home and otherwise figure out how it all worked.   A shakedown cruise of sorts.   Plus I would get to peruse all the offerings and dream.  Well, my friends, Heidi came a-calling with a pretty interesting offer… Heidi, her husband and five year old daughter live in Century City, a very nice suburb in LA between Beverly Hills and Santa Monica.  I worked there back in the days when I lived in LA so I know it pretty well.  (I’m sure a lot has changed since 1987, but still.)  Turns out they are thinking about moving to Portland and are looking for a home exchange from August 2012 through June 2013.   Nowhere in any of my thinking was the idea of a long term stay like this a possibility right now.  That was for way off in the future.   And frankly, I’ve lived in LA and while I do like to visit from time to time, it is definitely not on my list of places to live permanently.  Too busy, too crowded, to expensive, too L.A.  But, for a few months…say January or February through June…when it’s cold, gray and gloomy to the max in Portland, well I have to say I perked right up at the idea.  Hubby, Mr. “let’s become Citizens of the World”, was seriously not enthused.  In fact, he was kind of a wet blanket on my initial enthusiasm.   Big Bummer!   And it raised a few very interesting points for future discussion.  Apparently the move from talking to doing is not going to be as easy as my Pollyanna mindset had led me to believe.

Obviously, there are logistical questions to be considered and worked out in any kind of long term swap, but, it would be so much easier to do between Portland and LA than say Portland and Prague.   First, (again) what the hell do we do with Mr. Ricky?  He and hubs are a team – the dynamic duo, and I fear that Ricky might fare slightly better than his human half if they were separated.  Second – August?  Leave Portland during the one or two months of really lovely summer weather?   After I waited a whole year for summer to come back?  And third, we would have to actually pull the trigger and do something so far out of the comfortable box we currently live in.  Whew.  Not so quick or easy as it turns out.

Actually, if it were just me, it would be an easy decision.  But it’s not, we’re a team.  So I’m going to move us through this slowly to see where it might lead.  Here’s my tentative plan:

1.  We have to take the cat.  Will they be amenable to a handsome well mannered fur boy moving into their “gorgeous, art-filled, 3-level contemporary town-home with a grand piano in Century City”?  If no, end of road for now.  If yes, take one step forward.

2.  Heidi indicated she was flexible in her dates and might consider multiple swaps to get the full year.  Ok!  How about Les and Nancy from February through mid-June?

3.  If 1 and 2 fly, then it’s time to start working on my armchair based and very comfortable there world traveler.    Baby steps.  Stick and Carrot.  Sexy lingerie.  Time to bring out the full bag of tricks!

4.  If 3 flies and the hubs climbs on board, then it’s time to negotiate with the LA swappers to see if we can work out a lovely FREE winter vacation in sunny Southern California.  If so,  here’s where you’ll find us on the weekends…

And here’s where you might find Heidi and her family…

Yep, this is definitely worth pursuing.   Words of wisdom from the Old Grey Haired Guy I live with ~ “Keep saying Yes until you have a reason to say No”.  Words I now need to remind him of.   I’ll keep you posted.

When Fear Slithers in ~

Ok, I admit it, there’s a reason why my retirement dreaming has been more in the direction of Alsace Lorraine than some place in the Amazon.  One word – SNAKES.  Oh yes. I have a big time, full on, beyond all reason, fear of snakes.  Any kind, and size is not a factor.  I know it makes no sense.  I’m an educated and generally intelligent woman but this is one of those totally irrational things and, let me just say, this kind of REALLY BIG FEAR is not what you want to take with you when you become a citizen of the world.

Snake Charmers

As a kid in Canada, I grew up spending summers at our cottage on Balsam Lake and there were snakes but I don’t remember worrying about them.  We did all the crazy kid stuff and sometimes we’d see one.  No big deal.  But, sometime between those carefree summers at the lake and high school in Southern California, this crazy fear slithered into my mind and has grown into a green eyed monster.  In high school, I  paper clipped the pages of my biology book together so I wouldn’t touch the snake pictures.  True story.  But wait, it gets worse.  In 1996 I took a trip to Belize and Guatemala.  I was fearful of the jungle and what was lurking there, but I thought the best way to overcome my fear was to face it head on.  Right!  We were in Tikal hiking through the jungle to climb the Mayan pyramids.   It was dense and humid and we could hear the howler monkeys and parrots up in the trees.  I was pretty sure there was a big ole snake up there too, but we didn’t see any.   When we met a local guide/professor, I mentioned my fear of snakes.  He said “Don’t worry about snakes, they’re more afraid of you than you are of them”.  Ha!  Wrong-o!  And, then he said “Besides, you can smell them.  They have a very distinct and not pleasant smell.”  Really?  I did not know this.  I made it through the day and enjoyed every minute of this truly amazing experience.

Yoo Whoo! Any snakes down there?

But, the next morning, my friend Don and I decided to take an early walk.  We followed a dirt road just outside of the park.  We walked for a couple of miles and every now and then we would see a large sign, in Spanish, that said “Danger Venomous Reptiles”.  Okay, a little concern started to creep in.  My friend said it was just to keep tourists out.  Hmmm.  Wouldn’t it be in English too?  We kept on going, but then without warning – a really bad smell.  I lost all reason and control.  I screamed SNAKE! then turned around and ran as fast as I could in the other direction leaving my walking companion standing there shaking with laughter.  I was terrified obviously, since I still remember it like it was yesterday.   It’s embarrassing to say the least, but truth be told, snakes represent all the ways that I let fear stop me from living life full out.  And there are plenty of them.  I won’t bore you with the list.

How do you suddenly become brave at 63 1/2?  I’m not sure really, but I’d like to figure it out.  Actually, I’d settle for braver.   I’ll probably never jump out of an airplane and I’m OK with that.  But, there are a whole bunch of places in this world that are really worth experiencing and I’m not sure I can go because there might be snakes?   Am I really saying that?  It sounds crazy even to me, but it’s kinda true.  For now.

All I know is that life is short and I want to live every minute with all the gusto I can manage and so, somehow, the fear has to go.  You can’t pack it in the rollie.  It takes up way too much space and it definitely weighs you down.

Oh, and by the way.  Snakes don’t smell.  He was just messing with me.